Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6167

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Vol cxl No 8

pp. 229–252

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor J. M. Rallison was presiding, with the Registrary’s Deputy, the two Proctors, a Pro-Proctor, and twenty other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 19 and 7 October 2009, on the re-establishment of the degree of Master of Music (Reporter, p. 74)1.

Dr M. W. Ennis:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am speaking today as Chairman of the Faculty Board of Music and as one of those most closely involved in the proposal to introduce the new Master’s degree in Choral Studies.

The University of Cambridge has long been renowned for the excellence of its choral establishments, and there are arguably more choirs with international reputations in the University than in any other comparable institution in the world. The practice of choral music has largely been based in the Colleges; however, choral studies have not been the exclusive preserve of these institutions. Choral music has played a major part in the University’s academic life throughout its history: many Professors of Music and University Lecturers have been closely involved in advancing knowledge in the field, and the Faculty of Music has for some years offered a paper in Part II of the Music Tripos called ‘Choral Studies’. The latter has been taught by a combination of University Teaching Officers, Affiliated Lecturers, and College Directors of Music, and it is usually one of the most popular optional papers in the Music Tripos. (In the current year, more than half of our Part II students are taking this particular course.)

The proposed new Master’s degree in Choral Studies would form a logical progression from this under­graduate course. However, it would also open up the study of choral music to scholars and practitioners from overseas. In particular, we expect it to draw significant numbers of students from the United States, where choral singing is in many respects modelled on the English tradition. At a time when funding for graduate studies is likely to be squeezed, and when the University is looking for ways of encouraging applications from overseas, the Masters in Choral Studies offers a unique opportunity to draw in completely new groups of applicants, as well as providing advanced training for UK students.

The new degree would combine practice-based training with academic rigour. Its primary goals are to educate musicians in the art of choral conducting; to instruct them in diverse aspects of the history of choral music, with particular reference to theology and liturgy; to provide the opportunity to learn the technical skills required to work with historic repertoires; and, finally, to offer the experience of working alongside the leading Cambridge choirs. It would allow the Faculty of Music to draw upon the extraordinarily rich resource of the Colleges’ choral establishments, and upon the internationally recognized expertise of their Directors of Music, and the latter are keen to play an active part in the new degree. In short, it would offer a significant opportunity for the University and the Colleges to co-operate in the pursuit of excellence.

An increasing number of universities and conservatoires in the UK and abroad now offer graduate training in choral conducting; these include the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. And we understand that discussions are now underway in another ancient university about establishing a Master’s degree in Choral Studies there, though plans are not as far advanced as here. Cambridge arguably has an advantage over all its competitors in its infrastructure, its traditions, and its reputation, and the new Master’s degree would allow the University to maintain a lead in this increasingly recognized field of study. However, given possible developments elsewhere, we feel that the introduction of the new degree should not be delayed.

In conclusion, I should like to report that the Faculty Board of Music strongly supports this proposal and, as you may well know, the enthusiasm of the Faculty Board has been echoed by the Council of the School of Arts and Humanities and, more recently, by the University’s Council and General Board. I should like to conclude by voicing my own support for the recommendation that the degree of Master of Music be introduced as a primary degree in the University of Cambridge with effect from 1 October 2010.


  • 1The following remarks were supplied to be read but were inadvertently omitted:

    Dr J. P. Dougherty:

    Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report is very welcome, and especially for me as it fulfils a wish I expressed here nearly 30 years ago.

    The Report refers to the events of 1982 which led to the abolition of the degree of M.Mus., in 1982. I spoke at the Discussion then (Reporter, 1981–82, p. 107), entreating the Council and the Faculty Board of Music not to relinquish the fine title of Master of Music. I felt then, and still do now, that degrees which allude to the subject have a particular attraction that we should promote and enjoy, as they are rather rare elsewhere. I even gave as an example the idea of converting Part III Mathematics to a Master’s degree so named, something that has indeed been done recently.

    But in 1982 my plea fell on deaf ears, and I did not even get a reply. So let us rejoice in this new set of proposals, and the change in sentiment that has enabled them. As the Report says, this University has long been famous for its excellence in Music; moreover it has conferred degrees in the subject since the sixteenth century.

Topic of concern: The installation of a lift in the University Combination Room without the approval of the Regent House by Grace (Reporter, p. 60).

Professor C. F. Forsyth:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as one of the signatories to the request for a Discussion on this topic it is appropriate that I should begin by explaining why I signed up. The University Combination Room is one of the most ancient and elegant rooms in the University. More than this, it is a place where members of the Regent House meet and foregather. It is a place where we feel at home and at ease.

It was therefore with a sense of shock that I learnt that work had already started on the construction of a lift within the University Combination Room. According to the sketch I have seen the construction will culminate in what can at best be described as a giant tardis on the raised platform at the east end of the room. If the sketch is at all reliable (and since the plans have not been made public my understanding of what it will look like may be quite wrong) the tardis, if constructed, will henceforth dominate the Combination Room. Newcomers to the room will immediately ask with astonishment ‘What on earth is that?’ The more imaginative will think it offers the prospect of transportation to a different time or galaxy. It seems quite at odds with the grace of the fifteenth century that will surround it.

My shock deepened when I learnt that construction seems to have been commenced without anyone outside the Old Schools being consulted. How could this be? Statute F, 2 is unequivocal: ‘Approval by Grace of the Regent House shall be required for the erection of a new University building or for the demolition or substantial alteration of an existing University building.’ Thus unless the tardis is not considered a ‘substantial alteration’ to the Combination Room, a Grace is required and there has been no Grace.

Of course, what is evidently a ‘substantial alteration’ to one person may not be one to another. The House of Lords faced a very similar dilemma when it had to decide whether South Yorkshire was a ‘substantial part of the UK’. This was in the case of R. v. Monopolies and Mergers Commission ex p. South Yorkshire Transport Ltd. [1993] 1WLR 23 (HL). It there held that the courts would not intervene unless the meaning adopted of ‘substantial’ was unreasonable. While the construction of a tardis might on occasion pass as an insubstantial alteration, its construction in the ancient heart of the University and in such an aesthetically sensitive part of the University in a way that will dominate that room must surely amount to a substantial alteration to the University Combination Room.

What is to be done now? Well the plans must be published. Perhaps I have been misinformed and my concerns about its dominance will be displaced. And a Report should be published so the Regent House can see what the justification for the tardis is. Doubtless part of the justification will be the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (as amended). And I am sure that all would like reasonable steps to be taken to assist those with disabilities, but I for one need to be persuaded that a less objectionable but equally effective solution could not be found. And then the Regent House should be able to make up its own mind what the fate of the tardis will be.

Professor A. W. F. Edwards:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, There is only one way for this lift to be built without involving the University in adverse publicity worldwide. The Council must do what they should have done in the first place: publish a Report so persuasive of the need to meet the University’s disability obligations by a lift encased in a box the size of four telephone kiosks in the Regent House Combination Room that when the Grace is put it will be passed. But I understand the Council have not yet actually discussed the project. Requests to stop the work until this Discussion have been rejected.

The Regent House is the most beautiful, the oldest, and, in the words of Willis and Clark in their Architectural History, ‘the most important’ room belonging to the University. Purpose-built as the meeting-house and chapel of the Regent Masters, it was licensed by Pope Boniface IX, who also licensed the Caius chapel, and I have seen no evidence of it ever having been deconsecrated. It came into use in the year 1400, and was described in 1438 as being of ‘surpassing beauty’. Though it does not quite match Oxford’s Divinity School in splendour, it is older, and is historically the most important room in the universities in the English-speaking world. It is the cradle of our democracy, our Westminster Hall, built at exactly the same time that Richard II was rebuilding Westminster Hall with its fabulous hammer-beam roof, and miraculously surviving the construction of the Cockerell Building just as the Hall had survived the Westminster fire of 1834 three years earlier. Its first recorded event was in September 1401 when the Archbishop of Canterbury and his entourage made a visitation to the University during which the Chancellor, Doctors, and Masters assembled and rendered obeisance. The Archbishop then questioned the Chancellor as to whether the Statutes were being observed. The Board of Scrutiny should arrange a repeat.

For its first three centuries all the business of the University was conducted in the Regent House, all the Congregations of the Regents and their discussions, votes, and disputations, as well as their Commencement ceremonies until these grew too large and had to be moved to Great St Mary’s. But that was hardly a permanent solution for the growing University, and in 1730 the long-planned Commencement House or New Regent House was inaugurated, later to be called the Senate-House.

Pressure to build anew had also come from the need for the Library to expand into the Regent House, and for the next two centuries it held part of the growing collection of books, finally ending its library duty in 1934 as the Catalogue Room when the new University Library was opened and the Regent House could once again be seen in all its uncluttered beauty. Once again it became the House of the Regents, the scene of Discussions such as the one we are having today. The 1936 drawing by Hanslip Fletcher hanging on the staircase shows it after the transformation was complete, and it is interesting that he preferred to depict the easterly aspect, which includes the site of the lift. When the Vice-Chancellor wished to make use of the room for a meeting of the English-Speaking Union it was thought necessary to pass a Grace authorizing him to do so, a clear indication of whose room it was. This practice continued up to the war.

Under the 1923 Oxford and Cambridge Act, most of the powers of the Senate were to be transferred to a House of Residents, and happily the framers of the 1926 Statutes adopted the term ‘Regent House’ instead, which is the usage that comes most readily to mind today. To distinguish this Regent House, the statutory governing body of the University, from the room from which it takes its name, I shall refer to the governing body as ‘the Regents’.

In 1950 the Regents approved Grace 4 of 4 March ‘That the Regent House be made available for use as a Combination Room for members … until a Faculty Club has been established elsewhere in the University’ and Grace 5 ‘That ... the management of the Regent House as a Combination Room be entrusted to a Committee appointed by the Council of the Senate’. In 1968 three Regents called for a Discussion on ‘The management and future of the University Combination Room’ at which they expressed their dissatisfaction with the existing arrangements, as a result of which the Council added four elected members to the Committee. The composition may be found on p. 147 of Ordinances 2009.

It has now been decided to build a lift intruding into the Regent House at its eastern end. The Council will be able to explain the decision-making process, but I have it on good authority that they did not themselves see any plans. Statute F, I, 2 states that no substantial alteration of a University building shall be made without the authority of a Grace, that is, without the authority of the Regents. When I protested that this authority was lacking, the Registrary replied ‘The project is relatively minor and a Grace was not considered necessary’. When I observed that this implied that at least the point was considered and asked for the corresponding minute he replied that none existed. Nor had the Combination Room Committee been convened. He stated ‘This work is not a substantial alteration to a University building either in budgetary terms (c. £210,000), scale (the lift shaft is 2m x 2m), or in its effect’.

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I beg to differ. I have seen the plans, and nothing will persuade me that this lift would not in its effect be a substantial alteration to the most precious room in the University. Substance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The lift enclosure would destroy the symmetry of that beautiful room. The City Conservation Officer’s opinion was that ‘it must provide a fairly noticeable visual intrusion into what is a very fine, large relatively uncluttered space’ and ‘it is extremely unfortunate that it is necessary to intrude into the space of the Combination Room’. Necessary?

I asked the Registrary to ensure that the plans were displayed in the Schools Arcade before this Discussion so that Regents could make their own judgment as to whether the alteration would be substantial, but he refused my request, saying that they could consult them in the Guildhall or on application to EMBS (Estate Management).

The Statute in question, F, I, 2, is recent, and the circumstances of its approval by the Regents in 1994 throw much light on what they had in mind with the phrase ‘substantial alteration’. The Wass Syndicate had proposed that the existing requirement for a Report and Grace should be replaced by a weaker one leaving the Regents only with the power to approve ‘major new University buildings’. When the omnibus Grace to withdraw powers from the Regents was submitted, however, fourteen members proposed an amendment objecting to this particular transfer. They pointed out that Regents ‘may well have more forceful objections to the demolition of particular old buildings than to the erection of new ones and to small schemes rather than large ones’ and they wanted an Ordinance worded so as to safeguard their rights ‘in important cases while ensuring that routine or trivial works do not require the approval of the Regent House’. Quite so. To install a lift in a historic room unchanged in character since its construction in 1400 is neither routine nor trivial, but indeed an important case. It may be a small scheme in the eyes of EMBS, but it is just the sort of thing the proposers had in mind should remain the prerogative of the Regents. The amendment was approved by 696 votes to 255. The Statutes and Ordinances Revision Syndicate repeated the wording of the Ordinance in Statute F for good measure, where it was approved unopposed.

In the present instance, had there been a Grace an associated Report would have been necessary not only to publish the plans but also to explain the rejection of the obvious alternatives to this method of providing what is described as ‘disabled access to the Old Schools, Combination Room, the East Room, and the Syndicate Room’.

First we should remember that there is already a lift in the Old Schools. Is that not sufficient disabled access to the first floor? The fact that it starts a few steps above ground level would need to be rectified, but there is plenty of room for a ramp in the car park. I did not notice any mention of this Old Schools lift at all in the papers, not even one qualifying the architects’ statement ‘At present there is no disabled access to any of the first-floor rooms’.

As to alternative sites, neither the East Room, now partitioned office space, nor the Syndicate Room, can compare with the Regent House in age or architectural and historical importance, so what are the reasons for not bringing up the lift into one of them, or on to the landing between the Syndicate Room and the Dome Room? Next, there are two stairwells, one between the Council Room and the East Room and the other between the Dome Room and the Syndicate Room, either of which, but particularly the former, could accommodate a lift. The staircase to the Regent House from the lobby of the Cockerell Building, which is the usual approach for members, has too narrow a stairwell for a lift, but could readily accommodate a stairlift running up it. This is Caius property, but I am sure the Master and Fellows would be sympathetic to any arrangement which would help the University meet its obligations other than by the present plan. Either of the other staircases just mentioned could as equally be fitted with a stairlift.

Another possibility that would require the help of Caius would be to construct a lift in the space between the Cockerell Building and the Regent House. At first sight this is rather narrow, but in fact the two buildings are not parallel and as it was possible to fit a service lift into the gap at its narrower, western end, it should be possible to squeeze a passenger lift in at the wider, eastern end, perhaps even continuing to the Caius Upper Library. Indeed, could not the service lift have been made large enough for the occasional use required?

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, may an old Council hand directly address the Council through you as to what is expected of them next? Set aside your recent habit of allowing a committee to sanction a reply which is then deemed to have been approved by circulation if no Council member objects, an administrative development that has proved disastrous; write a Report giving full reasons for your recommendation, signed by those who agree with it; and put the Grace to the present-day descendants of the authority that built our incomparable Regent House in the first place six hundred and nine years ago, as every moral argument, as well as Statute F, I, 2, requires you to do.

Finally, after I had drafted these remarks, I came across the following paragraph in a letter from English Heritage giving their advice to the planning authority:

Pre-application discussions with the University’s architects revolved around the desire to bring a grand entrance staircase into the east end of the hall as well as a lift. The reasoning behind this is that it would create a suitably important entrance into the room. The University desires to use the hall for prestigious functions, which is laudable in that it befits the historical status of the space, but it should not be done at the expense of its historic character. To make the hall a circulation space would alter the focus of the room’s design and dilute its character. As the present access from outside the Old Schools is historically appropriate to the hall and there is no reason it will not continue to function we have not encouraged the addition of a staircase.

So it seems that the lift is left over from a scheme of monumental proportions from which English Heritage has saved us. There is no reason why it should not be constructed elsewhere.

Professor D. S. H. Abulafia (read by Professor A. W. F. Edwards):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I find myself in some difficulty in addressing this issue. I wear three hats: one as a member of the University Council, another as Fellow Librarian of Caius, and a third as a long-time tea-drinker in the University Combination Room. Wearing my first hat I am of course inclined to await the proper presentation of the case for these works in a report to the Regent House and, as a member of the Business Committee of the Council, I have been awaiting formal documentation that will, I suspect, take the odd form of a report of this Discussion about why no report has been published.

The lack of attention to due process puts me in an embarrassing position as Fellow Librarian of Caius, since the atrium of what is now Caius Library is the general means of access to the UCR (University Combination Room), and agreements between my College and the University permit users of the UCR also to use our Library staircase, coat-hangers, and lavatories. This means that we are neighbours, and it is therefore very odd that I have not received any notice of these works – indeed, the University did not bother to advise Caius of its plans. On the University Application Form, dated 12 December 2008, Question 7 concerns ‘Neighbour and Community Consultation’, asking, ‘have you consulted your neighbours or the local community about the proposal?’ There are boxes for YES and NO and NO has been ticked. So that is NO to Caius and NO to the local community, who is presumably the Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars, or at any rate those who are entitled to use the UCR.

In the last few days I have been in contact with Mr Steve Matthews of EMBS about the likely effect of any works on Caius Library. I had already agreed some months ago that access up our staircase could be granted for bringing in materials needed for the refurbishment of the Combination Room, though what was proposed was an operation to strip out asbestos. At that time, these words were used: ‘to allow access to the Combination, East Room, and the Syndicate Room a DAD compliant lift is due be installed. This requires some preliminary works to be carried out.’ However, I have no record of any agreement to co-operate in the creation of a lift shaft leading straight into the Combination Room, by (for instance) allowing equipment to be carried up our grand staircase, which, in any case, is in use by undergraduates and others wishing to reach Cockerell’s magnificent Upper Library. In correspondence during the last few days, I was informed that use would only be made of these stairs in the early morning, that any mess would be cleared up at once, and that work would resume shortly – irrespective, then, of this Discussion and its outcome. These are Mr Matthews’s exact words:

The works on the lift were stopped but only to allow a consolidation report on the University Committee approvals process to be considered. That has been, the works are not considered ‘substantial’ and so works will now start again. Work will re-commence on Saturday, 7 November and this will be to allow the construction of the compound on the dais within the Combination Room. All equipment and materials will pass through the lobby before 9 a.m. and all areas will be protected and left clean and tidy.

So the work is not regarded as ‘substantial’ (by whom, exactly?); if the criterion here is a comparison with the building of a Faculty or laboratory, then I suppose one could indeed claim that it is not ‘substantial’, meaning, if I understand correctly, that the Regent House would not normally be consulted. But the proposal to gouge holes in the medieval buildings that lie at the very heart of the University, physically, historically, and figuratively, is indeed substantial. Besides, if a lift were to be constructed, this would mean that there were two public means of access to the Combination Room, one via Caius Library and the other via the Old Schools and the lift, and one would need to think about the implications of this from all sorts of angles, including the security of Caius Library. The issues might easily be resolved, but it is negligent not to raise them and see if we are content with these proposals.

Now I find myself in the difficult position of being asked to consent to passage by workmen through the atrium of Caius Library to complete a project that has not been approved by the Council of which I am a member, nor by the Regent House. Unless this can be resolved according to proper procedures, what alternative do I have but to refuse the workmen access to the UCR through our atrium? Otherwise I am supporting an enterprise that, in my opinion, and in that of so eminent an expert as Sir John Baker, is being taken forward without the approval of the University. And yet the date on which work is to commence is given as last Saturday – this, frankly, shows contempt for the Discussion now under way, and for all the procedures the Discussion wishes to defend.

The first complaint clearly concerns procedures. I could also comment, as a member of the Regent House, on the horrible effects of this scheme on a much-loved room (the word ‘carbuncle’ comes to mind). I have less to say about that, since the Combination Room now closes at 3.30 p.m. rather than 5 p.m. (a change on which I do not recall any proper consultation), and my long-established habit of occasionally going there for tea at 4 p.m. has come to an end. I was first taken there as a schoolboy in the 1960s by the Reader in Semitic Epigraphy, whom I happened to know and who could down five cups of tea at one sitting. Later, when I was entitled to use the room in my own right, I came to know such engaging and distinguished figures as George Watson who also took tea there, and remains a habitué of the room. Admittedly, the main patrons were Fellows of Caius next door, seeking a break from supervisions and other tasks. I tell my personal history because it is time there was some discussion about the need to make the room live again. This is not a storm in a tea-cup. The room has great potential. Some will no doubt argue that it needs a lift to realize that potential. But this seems to me to be yet another example of uncoordinated thinking. First ask what the room is for, and then we can worry about how people might reach it.

Professor Sir J. H. Baker:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the old Regent House is the oldest building in secular use belonging to the University and of considerable importance in its own right. It would be quite wrong to destroy its character without a Grace, and perhaps wrong even with one. I wish to associate myself with all that has been said by the previous speakers.

Mr P. Woudhuysen:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in addition to today’s discussion about the proposed lift in the Combination Room, I would like personally to raise the following four related matters:

a) A few days ago a new notice appeared on the board next to the door to the Combination Room. It reads as follows: ‘Open to all members and staff of the University’. Who authorizes notices such as this and what is intended by the wording?

b) In addition to the right of access the notice also has completely new opening hours: ‘open from 9.00 to 3.30’. This is a considerable change from the hours that applied before the Combination Room was being refurbished; the University’s website dated 4 November 2009, has under University Offices: University Combination Room, the following: ‘Morning coffee is served from 10 a.m., lunch from 12.30 to 2 p.m., and afternoon tea from 3.30 to 5 p.m. The room closes at 5.30 p.m.’

c) What has happened to the Combination Room’s carpets, and especially the William Morris one? Rumour has it that it was given to the Fitzwilliam Museum. Who authorized this?

d) Why has the Committee of the Combination Room not been operating as required by Ordinance?

Professor G. R. Evans (read by Mr P. Woudhuysen):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Thomas Bodley wrote a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford in 1598 proposing to make the library ‘fitte, and handsome with seates, and shelfes, and desks, and all that may be needful, to stirre up other mens benevolence, and helpe to furnish it with bookes.’1 He had a good start for this grand scheme in its juxtaposition with the existing fifteenth century Divinity School (1427–83) with Duke Humfrey’s Library above, completed in 1489. Cambridge has its fifteenth century University room, too, the Combination Room on an upper floor behind this Senate-House, now unaccountably stripped of its memory-filled historic carpet and comfortably sagging gentlemen’s club armchairs, and turned into a café such as one may find on any high street.

Today Oxford’s Divinity School is the University’s oldest purpose-built surviving building, though it is not so central to that University’s democratic history as the Regent House is to Cambridge. It may be instructive in the light of the reason why today’s Discussion has had to be called, to remind members of the Regent House of what happened there two years ago, when a similar administrative failure to ensure that the constitutional protections were respected led to a not dissimilar act of vandalism. Let me quote from a letter dated 27 September 2007 sent to the Oxford Magazine by three senior academics and duly published:

The Divinity School, completed in 1488, is a jewel of the Bodleian Library, of the University, and of English medieval architecture. Unique in conception, proportions, and decoration, it has been kept largely clear since the seventeenth century of additions that would mar its beauty. It is, of course, part of a Grade I Listed Building.

The University and the Library now plan to place an eighteenth-century white marble statue in the Divinity School. Over ten feet high and weighing six tons, it would be a grotesque intrusion into an incomparable space. Neither the subject of the statue nor its sculptor are linked to the Bodleian or to the Divinity School. The only reason for its presence here is that a temporary home was needed, before the statue could be moved to the Ashmolean Museum, currently in the middle of a building programme.

A hole has already been made in the floor of the Divinity School in preparation for pouring a concrete slab to take the weight of the statue. This was done without Listed Building Consent, which University and Library authorities claim they do not need. If this is not an alteration to the Divinity School – surely what the 1990 Act is there to regulate – it is hard to conceive what other damaging changes might be attempted in future.

They noted that the process had ‘so far been carried out in the “safety” of the vacation, when few could be aware of it and informed discussion was not possible. This is also disturbing’. A parallel with what has happened in the Combination Room? They called for the whole thing to be got out into the open. ‘The debate can then take place where it properly belongs, in public’.

Enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act eventually revealed that permission had been given by Bodley’s Librarian for work to begin on the digging of the hole on 24 August, and only on that day had the Library’s Curators, the equivalent of Cambridge’s Library Syndicate, been ‘consulted’ in an email from the Librarian:

The University is making provision for a large commemorative statue of George Cooke created by Henry Cheere in 1749 to be housed in the southwest corner of the Divinity School until it can be moved to the Ashmolean in two years. I understand that the Divinity School served for a time as the University museum, so there is precedent for such a placement. We expect it to arrive, all six tons of it, on September 12th or 13th.

It follows that the Curators were given no opportunity to query this decision or to ask about Listed Building Consent before the hole was dug. They were it seems not informed that it was to be dug and the slabs lifted until the date the letter was sent to them, the day the work began. It seems unlikely that the Curators could all have responded in the depths of the Long Vacation in time to authorize the digging of the hole for the concrete to support the statue on the very day it was to happen, and the authorization would, constitutionally, have had to come from them. A constitutional slippage of some importance. Again a parallel.

Fortunately, members of Congregation rose up and protested so effectively that the project was stopped in its tracks, though when the paving slabs were replaced they were found to be broken and the archaeology beneath is irretrievably lost. The scar will be there for ever.

It emerged that the housing of the statue had been offered in conjunction with, and as a condition of, a substantial proposed benefaction. The benefactor had been given assurances without authority. When his statue was rejected, the benefactor took his money and his goodwill elsewhere.

There are, surely, lessons for the resolution of this question of the installation of a lift in the Combination Room. One lesson concerns the need to ensure that required constitutional procedures are followed. Another is the importance of avoiding intimidation in an attempt to hush things up when senior management realizes it had made a mistake. A fairly senior member of Oxford Libraries staff was told not to discuss what was happening because it was ‘confidential’, and I can testify that this ‘gag’ was also imposed on the staff more generally, because a number of individuals informed me that they had been told not to discuss the matter on pain of being subjected to disciplinary proceedings. Fortunately that will not be possible now with the lift in the Combination Room. Most important of all is the fact that the Regent House can be confident that if it says no, there can be no lift to ruin the view in the Combination Room. Moreover, if it is true that the room is still consecrated, the Ordinary’s permission is required before any act is undertaken relating to consecrated land or buildings or their contents. Has anyone asked the Bishop or checked dates for the Consistory Court to hear an application?


  • 1Quoted in D. G. Vaisey, ‘The legacy of Thomas Bodley’, Bodleian Library Record, xvii,6 (2006), 419–430, p. 423.

Professor A. D. Cliff:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is important for the Regent House to understand the context within which the work on the Combination Room lift is being undertaken. The University has an ongoing legal obligation to use its best endeavours to ensure that its buildings are accessible for the disabled wherever possible. This duty is enshrined in the Disability Discrimination Act. To that end, a priority list of works which commenced in 2005–06 was developed by the Joint Committee on Disability. This lift was on that list. The list was seen and approved by both the General Board and the Council. To develop specific proposals, Freeland Rees Roberts, local architects who specialize in work on listed buildings, were commissioned to prepare a feasibility study. It concluded that the Old Schools, whose buildings are riven with split levels, required three lifts strategically located around the building to provide full disabled access. One of these was to be located in the Combination Room area. This is to provide disabled access to the Syndicate Room, the East Room, the Combination Room, and, by mobile ramp, to the Vice-Chancellor’s office. The plans were developed in consultation with, and with the approval of, Cambridge City Council and English Heritage in accordance with accepted conservation principles (i.e. reversibility). The final scheme was approved by the Resource Management Committee on 2 July 2008 and Listed Building consent was granted on 27 March 2009. This consent was conditioned upon an archaeological dig on the site, and this has been carried out. No disturbance has been made to the historic structure of the building. Indeed, the affected floor in the Combination Room is of 1930s concrete, not fourteenth century oak as has been reported in some places. It is difficult to see what else the University could have done to ensure that a suitable lift and shaft are installed.

I do not accept that a Grace to approve the work is necessary. The project is small in terms of area (as a previous speaker has noted, a lift shaft 2m square) and value (£210,000). The University spends on average some £65m annually on capital projects, and the lift project is tiny in this context. The decision not to promote a Grace is consistent with all similar decisions taken over the last decade as regards minor works projects. I regret that this topic of concern has been called. It has delayed by some three months completion of a project required by the University. By interrupting the work, it has cost the University additional funds to no good effect because contractors have had to be sent offsite – this is in the middle of a substantial economic recession when the University is striving as always to obtain the best value for money from every pound it spends.

Revd. J. L. Caddick:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as is often the case, our Discussion this afternoon has been enlivened by the intervention of Professor Evans, and in particular her assertion, or her tongue-in-cheek reference to the possibility that the Combination Room may be consecrated, and therefore require the permission of the Bishop of Ely’s Consistory Court before these works can proceed. I have to say, I don’t think this is a matter on which members of the Regent House should lose sleep. Professor Edwards has kindly explained the basis for the assertion that the Combination Room may be consecrated, but in the first place, as I understand it, the jurisdiction of a Consistory Court does not depend solely on consecration, but primarily on a building’s use for ecclesiastical purposes.

Secondly, as Professor Evans knows, of course, the University claims peculiar status, that is, that it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ely, so even if members of the University taking tea were to be judged so weighty and solemn an undertaking as to constitute an ecclesiastical purpose, the ordinary whose permission we would need to obtain would not, on investigation, turn out to be the Bishop.